Reinventing Europe

How France and Germany can form the continent’s future – voices from the 166th Bergedorf Round Table in Paris

Körber-Stiftung: Before the German Bundestag elections President Macron said he would be dead if Angela Merkel coalitions with the Free Democratic Party. And now?

“You can never foretell what will eventually be decided in the coalition talks, and this is what matters. One thing is clear: if the Free Democratic Party insists on its position, there will be problems, but not just with France.”

Charles Malinas, Advisor, Policy Planning Staff, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Paris


Körber-Stiftung: Emmanuel Macron wants to reinvent Europe. Does this require a more enthusiastic German government?

“I believe that enthusiasm exists. The polls in Germany show a true commitment to Europe. I am confident that the new coalition will find the right answers. We have to use the window of opportunity until 2024, as shown by President Macron. It won’t be a big throw, but if we go step by step in the right direction, we will be able to offer a vision of our common future to all Europeans.“

Jean-Claude Tribolet, Deputy Director, European Union, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Paris


Körber-Stiftung: How should European partners react to the ambitious agenda of Emmanuel Macron?

“France is too important to fail. President Macron sparked great enthusiasm in France, and he deserves fair support from the European partners. If the French feel left alone, that would be a disaster for the entire EU. For example in security policy, France has a tradition of reconciling values and hard power, and it is one of the few European countries with the necessary self-confidence to play an international role. Europe needs this. However, we should firmly anchor our efforts in this field in the transatlantic community. It would not be wise to distance ourselves from the US because we do not like Mr. Trump.”

Janusz Reiter, Founder; Chairman of the Board, Center for International Relations, Warsaw


Körber-Stiftung: Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for reforming the EU partly mean more integration and more financial resources for the EU. What if the population is not convinced?

“When you explain to the population what you are planning to do, the citizens become very receptive. I ran an election campaign on European issues in a constituency where the right-wing extremists were very present, and still my experiences were positive. Debates cannot always come from the top, we must engage with citizens. Particularly we as parliamentarians need to mediate between the national and the local level, because for years now the local political level has not fully taken part in many European decisions. Also, we urgently need to stop this trend of “Europeanizing” everything that goes wrong while nationalizing all of the success stories.”

Sabine Thillaye, MP; Chairwoman, Committee on European Affairs, Assemblée Nationale, Paris


Körber-Stiftung: Which concrete steps should France and Germany now take on European defense and security policy?

“France and Germany should first stabilize their bilateral defense relationship. The previous German government’s decision to no longer implement the 1972 Schmidt- Debré Agreement increased uncertainty. With this agreement, both governments pledged not to prevent the export of jointly produced armament, and this clarified the rules of the game for their defense industries. We need such predictability, resolving everything on a case by case basis will be a killer for the integration of our defense industries. Secondly, Germany and France should continue to take the lead on the establishment of the European Defense Fund. They should ensure that the fund will be big enough to make a serious difference in terms of procurement policy for our armies. Europeans can no longer afford a non-interoperable hodgepodge of military equipment.“

Körber-Stiftung: Will Germany and France ultimately share a strategic vision?

“There is a will to agree on common goals as well as strategic means to fulfill them, but it will not be easy. France has traditionally been looking more to the South and Germany more to the East. But today, the French understand that Africa is too big an issue to be dealt with by France alone, and since the refugee crisis Germany understood that the Middle East and Africa are not only a problem for France and Italy. Most challenges we face today are not only common, they can neither be dealt with by one country alone.”

François Heisbourg, Chair of the Council, Institute for International Strategic Studies, Paris